Forward Thinking Family Law Since 1994

Do Your Kids Resist Spending Parenting Time with You? Give Them Permission to Love the Other Parent

Recently, a new client complained that her 15 year old son does not want to spend time with his father. The son complains that Dad maligns Mom when they are together. Yesterday, the client forwarded an email exchange between their son and his dad which son had forwarded to her. In the email, Dad described himself as the person who has to put up with son's mom's unreasonable expectations. He attached a copy of an email exchange having to do with the divorce to the email he sent to their son.

No 15 year old child wants to hear about or read one parent criticizing the other. No child wants to be drawn into the anger and arguments between divorcing parents. These are way beyond the child's ability to manage conflict. These are adult issues and should be left between the adults. Children want to be allowed to love both parents; openly.

This is not a unique situation. Many teenagers feel empowered as they grow older to call their parents on their anger or criticism of the other parent; either during the divorce or after. Since teenagers are not equipped to deal with the hostility between their parents, often they withdraw from the parent who voices the anger he/she feels about the other parent. When this happens, the parent who loses time with the child often accuses the other parent of alienating the child. This leads to more criticism of the other parent and more estrangement from the child.

It is possible that the other parent is trying to turn the child against Dad. However, it's also possible that Dad is turning the child away by being so critical. In this case, Dad moved out of the home and into a girlfriend's home, some distance from the family home. The son knows that he was left with Mom and it is Mom who is providing primary care. He was probably left feeling rejected by Dad. Rather than helping the child deal with the situation, Dad's criticism of Mom is making it worse. The son is withdrawing from Dad.

If you want to spend more time with your child, acknowledge that the child wants to love both parents and both extended families. Acknowledge that Mom has lots of good qualities. You loved her once enough to make at least one baby with her. Perhaps the relationship between you isn't working well now. However that does not mean that Mom has changed into a person who deserves your scorn.

You may have valid criticisms of the other parent. Bring them to your therapist and to your lawyer. They are equipped to help you deal with your anger. Do not bring your anger to your child.

Your parenting time is precious for both your child and for you. Allow your child to talk openly about the other parent and his life at the other parent's home. Your child will thank you for that opportunity by wanting to spend that time with you.